Korean CARP Serves in Mongolia
We were confident we could change Mongolia during the ten days we would be there doing volunteer services, but now that all the service projects are finished, the real changes are in our thinking and life style. In the end Mongolia has changed us.
Our first experience was of the smiling faces of Mongolia-CARP at the airport, and the bus that took us to our lodging, and I remember the cold breeze that made us embarrassed of the shorts we had worn. We met with the Mongolian members for just a short period before going to sleep, even before the sunset. The sun doesn't set until after 10 o'clock in Mongolia. It seemed as if were taking a nap in broad daylight but because our service projects would begin tomorrow we had to rest.
Our first project was in a desert village on the outskirts of Ulanbator. We were helping create a free daycare, and our job was to lay the foundations. Physically it was difficult, and because we were doing repetitive work, we tired easily. But as we worked the beautiful Mongolian nature would make us forget our aches. The vast treeless grassland, the rolling mountains, the river and the herds of sheep we saw in the distance--it was as if we were in a drawing. The children laughing brightly with their dust-smeared faces were so beautiful. Indeed, it is for those children that we bent our backs in labor and dug the ground. With that thought, I grasped the shovel tighter.
On the 9th September we went to another area in town where garbage gathers due to wind and rain and bothers the residents.. As we were picking up trash there, the local radio station UBS came and we were covered on the 8 o'clock news.
From the 10th to the 13th we went to Baiangol, four hours by train and bus from the capital. Our project there was to fill a deep and wide pit in which animals fall and die when winter comes around. This pit was in the middle of a remote plain a little distant from Baiangol. There were no people around at all. In the distance we could see a solitary car drive by, just one black speck of dust in the white surroundings , and the only visual reminder we were in the 21st Century.
On the last day the men continued to fill the pit, while the women went to paint a local school. Everyone truly worked hard, not even stopping to talk. We kept digging dirt and filling the land, with such a fruitful and light-hearted feeling--a feeling not that easy to come by in the course of daily life.
On our final night in Baiangol, we had a campfire. What began with a brilliant display of fireworks, eventually grew into a large fire as the Mongolian members lit the firewood with flaming arrows. We had a talent show team by team and under the cloudless Mongolian night sky we became one nation, one heart under the Milky Way. As the fire subsided, our feelings of longing intensified. The beautiful nature, the warm smile of the people. How can we ever forget Mongolia!